Chicago took three of four from Houston to move a half-game behind the Astros and St. Louis Cardinals in the Division.
“The way the season has been it’s been somebody up and somebody down, but never really ever out of it,” Matt Clement said. “It looks like all three teams have the talent to stay in this thing or win this thing.”
The Cubs beat the Astros 7-1 on Thursday behind Alex Gonzalez, who had three hits, including a homer.
“I think there is a feeling that every night any guy in our lineup can make a big impact in winning a ball game,” Gonzalez said. “That’s the way it’s been going the last couple of weeks, it seems to be a different guy every game.”
Chicago has climbed up the Central standings with strong pitching, as the Cubs have allowed just nine runs in winning four of their last five games.
Prior is 2-0 since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 5. He has given up just one run and seven hits in 15 innings while striking out 15.
While Chicago has closed the gap in the NL Central, Los Angeles remains in the NL wild-card race. The Dodgers salvaged a split of their four-game series with Florida after Thursday’s 6-4 victory.
“It’s nice to come away with a split after the tough games we played the past few days,” outfelder Jeromy Burnitz said.
Dodgers closer Eric Gagne struck out the side in the ninth to extend his major-league record for consecutive saves at the start of a season with his 40th.
The Dodgers are four games behind Philadelphia for the NL wild card.
STANDINGS: Dodgers - 3rd place, 11 1/2 GB, NL West. Cubs - 3rd place, 1/2 GB, NL Central.
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Masao Kida (no record). The right-hander will be making his NL debut against Chicago after the Dodgers recalled him from Triple-A Las Vegas. Kida pitched with Detroit in 1999 and 2000.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Prior (10-5, 2.76 ERA). Prior pitched a five-hitter on Sunday, beating Los Angeles 3-1.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Dodgers - Brian Jordan, .299 avg.; Burnitz, 23 HRs; Shawn Green and Burnitz, 57 RBIs; Green, 59 runs; Dave Roberts, 30 SBs. Cubs - Kenny Lofton, .310 avg., 71 runs and 23 SBs; Sammy Sosa, 28 HRs and 76 RBIs.
SEASON SERIES: Dodgers, 2-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Dodgers - RHP Gagne has pitched 20 straight scoreless innings, given up just three hits and striking out 32. … Los Angeles is last in the major with 83 home runs. … The Dodgers are 44-12 when they score more than three runs. Cubs - SS Gonzalez had been in a 2-for-46 slump before his three hits on Thursday. … OF Sosa saw his streak of homering at least once in a series stop at 12. He finished the series 2-for-15. … The Cubs optioned struggling pitcher RHP Juan Cruz to Triple-A Iowa. He was 1-4 with a 5.68 ERA.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Dodgers - 28-32 on the road; Cubs - 31-30 at home.
INJURIES: Dodgers - C Todd Hundley (back), 15-day DL; IF Fred McGriff (abductor muscle), 15-day DL; OF Brian Jordan (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Troy Brohawn (rotator cuff), 15-day DL; LHP Kazuhisa Ishii (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Dreifort (knee), 60-day DL; LHP Derek Thompson (elbow), 60-day DL. Cubs - IF Mark Grudzielanek (hand), 15-day DL; OF Tom Goodwin (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Corey Patterson (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 60-day DL.